Please forgive the dramatic (if not completely cheesy) title. I mean it quite literally, though. Take time, if you will, to read about it and think about the little journeys you have everyday as well.
It’s a lazy afternoon around the beginning of fall. I mindlessly wander out of my room and slump onto the futon in the living room and turn on the TV. As I scroll through the channel guide my mind automatically (almost mechanically) categorizes each channel and title into things I don’t really care for, wouldn’t mind watching, or want to watch as if my life depends on it. At some point my eyes catch The Great Mouse Detective, not only because it’s a familiar title but also because the block its assigned on the grid is particularly long compared to others; most of us know that means a program has still a ways to go so I gleefully move the highlight block to it and select.
Cover of The Great Mouse Detective
Amidst the flood of childhood memories and reverie, a line of dialog suddenly yanks my head out of the clouds. Around the middle of the movie, when Olivia was captured and reunited with her father, he calls her something that I thought sounded like bern or behrn and this spikes my curiosity if only for a moment. This makes me run back into my room to grab my laptop and rush back outside so I could continue to enjoy the movie while I searched for what that word was.
At first I simply entered bern or berhn in the search box, which only generated some cooky results that I quickly decided were not relevant in the slightest. Next I tried adding The Great Mouse Detective to the box, and that got me some pages that were related to the movie but nothing about the word. So I decided to change the spelling of the word, since I was pretty sure the way I was spelling it was completely wrong anyway, to bayrn. This actually generated some results that included transcripts of the movie, and I found that the word was actually bairn.
Now that I had the exact word, I breathed easier and did the usual search. This generated something that I was kind of expecting–a Wikipedia page, which I promptly clicked on.I’m sure it’s safe to assume that anyone reading this has been on Wikipedia, and more often than not when searching for something the results usually include a Wikipedia page. Getting a wiki is so normal that most of us probably just click and skim through it to get a quick idea of what it is we searched for, so that’s exactly what I did. But it took a somewhat long time (longer than most would expect for a reasonably intelligent person) for me to figure out that the wiki I was reading was from http://sco.wikipedia.org–Scotland Wikipedia.
Bairn, it turns out, is a Scottish word that means child. But wait a sec, doesn’t Scotland speak English, albeit a heavily accented version of it? From what I understood, they do, but I could only assume from navigating through http://sco.wikipedia.org for a while that they write the same way they talk; and by that I mean, for example, writing the word dollar but then pronouncing it as “dollah” or “doller”, as opposed to pronouncing it “dollah” and also writing it as dollah much like the way children do when they first learn the connection between spoken and written words. The only reason I was not able to research the nature of Scottish language thoroughly was because when I started really looking at the wiki for bairn and tried reading it in my mind, I became too amused that I had to read it out loud. The more I read, the more an accent started to come into the way I talked as I read the article. Sadly, the bairn wiki was rather short so it didn’t give me much to go on but I quickly turned to the other links within the article (which Wikipedia is so good at doing in any language) and found myself reading more and more. It got to a point where I simply had to share this gem of a discovery with my friends, who at first thought that I was faking the accent while reading a Scottish Wiki article. But when they had a look for themselves they saw the truth right before their eyes, and pretty soon it became an inside joke for all of us.
To this day, our favorite Scottish wiki is the one for golf. Try searching it.
What I was doing was simple enough and admittedly silly; in my mind I was reading Scottish Wikipedia articles because I was trying to see how much of an accent I would get by just trying to pronounce the way the words were written in Scottish and not by forcing an accent. However, once I sat down and thought about it, I realized that I had gone from watching TV, searching the internet through my laptop, stumbling on some information that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and relaying that information to those close to me to see if they would react to it the same way I did. It seems like such an obvious and trivial string of events, doesn’t it?
I like to think that it’s not, though. From TV, to the internet, to interpersonal interaction, each jump from one thing to the next was done for different reasons and generated different experiences. It happens everyday to everyone, but just because that’s the case doesn’t mean that it’s not worth taking a closer look at. Think about it. Take something unusual or interesting that you know, and try to trace back how you found out about it. Or try actively noticing and thinking about the things that you encounter day by day. If you make little notations about what you end up learning, finding out about, or just plain being informed about, you might be surprised by what you know, and why or how you know it.